Sweat and belonging

In fitness, there are no short cuts, It involves immense discipline and hard work — Mahesh Babu

For the last five Saturdays (make that four Saturdays and one Sunday), I have participated in the 2017 CrossFit Games Open. The Open is the first of three stages that lead up to the Games which I think happens late summer/early fall. I could be wrong. Yes, I’m horrible for not paying better attention.

On the CrossFit website, the Open is described as a five-week, five-workout competition held in late February in CrossFit affiliates and garage gyms around the world. During the five weeks, workouts are released online each Thursday, and each athlete has until Monday to perform the workout and submit their scores.

The CrossFit affiliate I go to is Prairie Crossfit. The owners, coaches and fellow crossfitters are a great bunch of people. But a little more on them a bit later.

The Open is where grassroots and the elite athlete compete together. This is where a person can determine how fit they are compared to everyone else in their age category. At this stage, for the majority of participants, it’s about having fun — if you consider trying to performing 55 deadlifts, 55 wall ball shots, 55-calorie row and 55 handstand push-ups in 13 minutes fun. It can be done. Just not by me, though. This was the Open’s Week-4 workout.

Participating in the event is also an opportunity to determine where your weaknesses are and to put together a game plan for next year’s Open. But doing the Open year-to-year is a great way to evaluate your fitness progress. If one Open is plenty for you, at least you have an idea of what you need to work on for your fitness goals.

Me? I just want to age as gracefully as possible and kick ass for as long as possible.

The last time I participated in the Open was two years ago. I skipped last year because my right shoulder was still recovering from an injury. No point in fucking that up if it wasn’t quite 100% yet. I hummed and hawed a bit before deciding to dive into this year’s Open. I have no regrets doing it.

Compared to two years ago, I know I’m stronger. My shoulder has held up to the workouts. Aside from the odd bruise and scraped skin, I’m injury-free as the Open wraps up for another year.

My muscular endurance is better. And there’s always room for improvement. I’m still stubborn as a mule. That’s never changing. Mental fortitude is a necessity in CrossFit and any other sport you participate in. As for the squats, I still need to have the hip crease consistently go below parallel but it’s better. Overall body strength is better. And while everything is better, everything is always open to more improvement.

I managed to do some things I thought I would mightily struggle with during the Open. For example, weighted walking lunges. I have enough issues with walking lunges, in general, without adding two 20lb dumbbells into the mix. Getting that knee to touch the ground is one of the banes of my existence. But I did it. Walked at least 135 ft. with the weights sitting on my shoulders. My legs were sore the next day but it was worth it.

I also managed to set a personal record (PR) in the snatch and overhead squat. 25kg is new PR if you were wondering. I wouldn’t consider my upper body strength exactly great. But it’s coming along.

There are lots of things to work on because it’s never too early to prepare for next year. If I made a list of goals, it would be substantial because they would all be baby steps working together to become physically stronger. All part of the plan to grow older gracefully.

Aside from the fitness goals, one of the reasons I participate in the Open is the idea of community. Every Saturday, during the Open, I got to sweat it out with my fellow CrossFitters who I don’t normally see on a regular basis. We cheer each other on, we support each other and celebrate each other’s successes, no matter how big or small they may be.

The folks I workout with, are great and interesting people. The knowledgeable coaches will cheer you on during the workout, but won’t hesitate (in a loving manner) to kick your ass if you need it. And we don’t just cheer each other on during the Open… we cheer, support and celebrate each other all year round. Camaraderie forged in sweat and determination to fight for every rep.

It’s true that you can’t pick the family you’re born into. But there are families you can choose to be part of. We all have a few chosen families that occupy parts of our lives. I’m fortunate to have this particular community as one of my chosen families and to be part of their family, as well.

Fitness. Friendship. Family. That is the community I belong to and love.

Holiday musings

Christmas is less than a couple of weeks away and I find myself not feeling as sour or ambivalent about it as I did in the last few years.

It probably has something to do with getting older or not giving a shit. I’m leaning towards something to do with getting older. I’ve got a few more years before I can genuinely say I don’t give a shit.

I think veering away from the commercialism of Christmas has finally settled comfortably into my being and I can move through the season without entertaining any additional homicidal thoughts.

What’s been bouncing around in my head this past week? A few things.

For starters, food. Christmas dinner, actually.

Previous Christmas dinners have run the gamut from the traditional roast turkey that my dad used to make to roast duck to ham to salmon to crown roast of pork. There was a roast goose one time, too. Pretty sure it was a domestic goose, not a Canadian goose. My dad cooked that one. Not me. We’ve never had a leg of lamb as part of Christmas dinner. That is because I’m the only one in the family who loves lamb.

This year, I’m going to have tourtière as part of Christmas dinner. I won’t be making it. I’ll be picking it up from a local bakery called La Belle Baguette. Their baked goods are to die for. (Yes, I still have issues with white flour. But my body tells me limited exposure is OK.) I’m also picking up a yule log from the same folks. My first one ever. They swear it’s very light. Made with chocolate mousse. Sold!

However, my mom is unaware of the tourtière and the yule log. Guess that’s going to be a bit of a surprise. I think I’ll throw in a small honey ham or bake a salmon. Hmmm. The salmon sounds better than the ham. I’ll have to confab with her about it and warn her about the tourtière and yule log.

The next thing I’ve thought about? What am I going to watch on Christmas Eve. I could go to the movie theatre and watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens. However, Christmas dinner will be on Christmas Eve so that’s kiboshed. That leaves Netflix and a small array of yet-to-be-viewed DVDs and Blu-Ray discs for post-dinner entertainment. Way too many options. I think what I will ultimately watch on Christmas Eve will depend on my mood. And I’m hoping I’ll be in a good mood.

If I’m not in the mood for Netflix (which I highly doubt will happen), I could always do some writing. There is a scene I’m developing and it has so many different paths it could take that I have to go back to the main female character and get inside her head to tell me  which road she plans on taking. Without getting into too many details, it is an intense scene and it has to be true to the two characters involved. I regard it as a ‘Go big or go home’ kind of scene. When I’ve figured it out, I’ll be sharing it with my writing mentor. He’s aware I’ve got something cooking and he’s excited to read what’s been ruminating in my head. Maybe I’ll write after I’ve watched Netflix.

And the final thing that popped into my mind… Seattle Seahawks. I never paid much attention to the NFL for most of my life. Growing up I remember the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys being two of the dominant teams in the league. I could be wrong considering I never read the sports pages as a kid. But I remember both my parents staying on top of the teams’ exploits and watching the Super Bowl every year.

Considering the CFL season is over and considering the league has been kinda ‘meh’ for the last few seasons, I’ve been thinking about following an NFL team just for the hell of it. Granted, I should have started following a team when the season started up after Labor Day, but what the fuck… better late than never. I’ve decided to follow the Seattle Seahawks. Actually, they peripherally caught my eye last season when they made it all the way to the Super Bowl for the second year in a row, only to lose to the New England Patriots.

I suppose I’ll have to do a little research and read up on the team, check out their website, get familiar with the players and all that fun stuff. Although I can’t see myself watching ESPN just yet. TSN is plenty for me.

I’m sure something else will pop into my head before Christmas rolls around. Wow. This is all starting to sound frighteningly busy.

Jumping into the pool

Once again, I have gone and done something I thought I would never do — participate in a NHL playoff hockey pool.

I’ve never really understood the purpose behind sports pools. And I still don’t even though I’m in one. I have friends who love to participate in hockey pools and I have friends who love NFL fantasy football. I think the CFL is too small of a league to have a fantasy football thing happen in the land of the maple leaf. But I could be wrong.

Up to now, I never paid much attention to my friends’ interest in them. But a friend invited me (along with a whole bunch of other friends) to participate in his hockey pool. He caught me in a weak moment — if you consider being in a good mood, a weak moment.

You’d think with easy access to friends who indulge in sports pools, the natural thing to do would be to ask them to give me the 411 on them. But no. I dived right in without checking to see if there were any hidden objects beneath the surface, picking players based on what little knowledge I knew about the majority of them. I didn’t have to fork over any money to play. It’s all for fun and the winner receives a $50 gift card from Jets Gear (the Winnipeg Jets’ official NHL store).

And with the gift card, who doesn’t want to pick up a pair of knee highs with the Jets logo on them? They’d be great for CrossFit! The player bobbleheads are probably worth a look, too. But then, I’ve never understood the appeal of bobbleheads. They’re pretty funny looking, especially when the likeness of the person they’re supposed to resemble isn’t quite right. Unfortunately, it’s appeal doesn’t go much further than that.

Considering I’m absolutely green to the game, I figure my player selections will land me at the bottom of the hockey pool once the Stanley Cup is hoisted by the members of the victorious team. I even named my team NeverDoneThisBefore. Totally honest. Totally self-deprecating. Totally not in it to win it.

If I decide to do this again next year or I get talked into a regular-season NHL hockey pool, I’ll have to come up with a really cheeky team name. And search out my hockey pool playing friends for a little advice on how to navigate my way through an 82-game season.

I would consider participating in a regular-season NHL non-draft hockey pool rather than a draft or fantasy hockey pool. I didn’t know what the differences were until I looked it up. The latter two seem to be way too much work. Seems like you gotta do some statistics and analysis homework before you can put together a team. And it can still be a crap shoot. Oh, hell no. I think I’ll skip that.

I’ll stick with the crap shoot in the non-draft hockey pool.

Looks like it’s only a matter of time before I turn into some sort of sports nut. Hooligan. Whatever.